An odd point of interest at Reddit last week provides the perfect metaphor for MCU leaving itself no way home after this latest Spiderman story. People took to posting their neighbors’ supercars parked in non-super neighborhoods. Lambo and McLaren car fans fell all over themselves pointing out how those cars need secure, safe garages to protect their investment and that’s kind of the point. The moral of the story is: Don’t get a supercar until you can give it a good home. That’s also how I feel coming out of this latest installment in the MCU universe. Let’s talk about why:
– Brief Spoiler Alert –
As you’ll learn from Wikipedia, Peter Parker begins SNWH in trouble: everyone knows he’s Spiderman, trashing not only his college aspirations but his girlfriend “MJ” and best friend Ned. In desperation, he asks Dr. Strange to create a spell to undo the damage, leading to a massive multiversal showdown. Spiderman spends the rest of the film battling every major villain every other Spiderman has ever fought, leading to a multi-Spidey fight scene that isn’t to be missed. Eventually, Peter Parker must sacrifice everyone he knows to save the rest of the multiverse.
– End of Spoilers –
I came out of SNWH with many mixed feelings and waited until now to jot down some Bardist notes for other storytellers. No Way Home is a colossal missed opportunity for the MCU, full stop. If you need to know why, can google ‘What’s wrong with Spiderman No Way Home‘ to see The Guardian, Rolling Stone, and other major media falling all over themselves to poke fun. My personal list of storytelling fails – without spoiling other parts of the plot – is as follows:
- Adults only impart wisdom after it’s too late to do anything about it
- The quantum mechanics of the multiverse are in the hands of a guy who can’t say “No?”
- Peter Parker’s choices kill more people than Thanos and he’s STILL the hero?
- You could remove MJ and Ned from this movie and nothing major would change.
- Spiderman is a protagonist who suffers from Main Character Syndrome.
On that last point, let me say this – Spiderman’s emotional appeal came from the fact that he was an anonymous everykid with problems and weaknesses we could identify with. That’s all gone now. Watching this latest movie reminds me of six-year-old kids taking all their toys out of the box at once. It’s cool if you want to see Darth Vader pilot the Millennium Falcon and blow up the USS Enterprise, but where do you go from there? This movie is the cinematic equivalent of a firework show: big booms, nothing but darkness when it’s over.
Strategically, I can only think of two major reasons why SNWH was allowed to happen:
- They know the plot holes are there and are using them to deconstruct assumptions about Spiderman
- Sony had a production schedule to keep and went with a ‘good enough’ script, assuming the audience’s emotional attachment would cover any plot holes
But who cares? The main thing I want to get across is outside of the usual ‘top ten’ list. Every good or bad story has a lesson to teach us as storytellers. No Way Home wasn’t necessarily ‘bad,’ but it sure wasn’t good. Two and a half hours of ‘I wish this was better.’
In this woeful narrative of a million missed opportunities, MCU and Sony show themselves to be ‘trash supercar owners.’ In their hands, a McLaren 765LT is like the mule with a spinning wheel: Nobody knows how he got it and danged if he know how to use it. It’s pointless to give them a franchise – they have no idea how to take care of them!
What should they do differently? Big topic, boils down to a simple answer. The proper care and feeding of a franchise isn’t complicated. The producers of SNWH could have, should have followed Campfire Rule: leave the story better than you found it. “Are we leaving the story and the characters in better condition than we found them? If so, how? Why MUST we tell this story?”
Once you’re done with those questions, defend your choices the way Peter should have defended his choices to Doctor Strange. Take the die-hard fans out of the equation – will this story appeal to everyone? Will you see nerd kids talking about the first time they saw NWH when they grow up? Will they watch this on TNT in five years?
This level of consideration, along with basic screenwriting tools? Imagine what we could have had! A character bible, a story card collection, reviewed with a group of angry nerds who live for this sort of scrutiny? The entire franchise could have been rescued in twenty minutes.
So yeah, Spiderman: No Way Home was a disappointment. I’m glad I haven’t invested more time in the franchise because clearly, I haven’t missed much. Yes, art and commerce are strange bedfellows but when you focus too hard on bottom lines, you get reticulating splines. You get disappointed fans, you get crummy reviews, you get bad stories.
Don’t be the ‘trash supercar’ owner. Don’t settle for ‘good enough is good enough.’ We put our heroes in your hands. Don’t let us down.